Mid-infrared variability of blazars: a view from NEOWISE survey

  • Lisheng MaoEmail author
  • Xuemei Zhang
  • Tingfeng Yi
Original Article


We studied mid-infrared (MIR) variability of a large sample of blazars detected by LAT/Fermi (called Fermi-detected blazars) and those not detected by LAT/Fermi (called non-Fermi-detected blazars) in order to investigate any difference in the variability characteristics between them as well as between FSRQs and BL Lacs. Making use of NEOWISE archival data from October 2013 to December 2017, we constructed the long-term 3.4 μm and 4.6 μm light curves of 2,573 blazars and computed their intrinsic variability amplitudes, \(\varPsi \). As a result, we found that (1) Fermi-detected blazars show higher \(\varPsi \) than non-Fermi-detected blazars; (2) Fermi-detected FSRQs show higher \(\varPsi \) than non-Fermi-detected FSRQs; (3) Fermi-detected BL Lacs show higher \(\varPsi \) than non-Fermi-detected BL Lacs; (4) FSRQs show higher \(\varPsi \) than BL Lacs. By comparing their distributions of “\(\mathit{var}\_\mathit{flg}\)” in the ALLWISE database, we also found that Fermi-detected blazars/FSRQs/BL Lacs tend to be more variable than non-Fermi-detected blazars/FSRQs/BL Lacs. For the Fermi-detected blazars, there are highly significant correlations between the flux densities and spectral indices in the MIR and gamma-ray bands. These results imply that the activity in the two bands is connected. Our results are consistent with several earlier results on the differences between Fermi-detected blazars and non-Fermi-detected blazars. We also give some possible explanations about the statistical results.


BL Lacertae objects: general Galaxies: quasars Galaxies: photometry Infrared: galaxies Methods: data analysis 



We are grateful to the anonymous referee for insightful comments and constructive suggestions which improved the quality of this work. This research makes use of data products from the WISE/NEOWISE, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by the NASA. This research also makes use of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive, which is operated by JPL/Caltech, under contract with NASA. Part of this work is based on archival data and online services provided by the Space Science Data Center-ASI. This work make use of R, which is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. This work is supported by Doctoral Natural Science Foundation of Yunnan Normal University and National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant No. 11463001).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsYunnan Normal UniversityKunmingChina
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsYunnan Normal UniversityKunmingChina

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